Honourable Minister Ricardo Salles, Minister of Environment of the Federative Republic of Brazil;
Honourable Minister Dmitry Kobylkin, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation,
Honourable Minister Prakash Javadekar,
Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of the Republic of India,
Honourable Vice Minister Runqui Huang, Vice Minister of Ecology and Environment of the People's Republic of China;
Ms Claudia Prates of the New Development Bank;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me a great pleasure to be attending the fifth BRICS Ministers of Environment meeting. First, let me start by extending my congratulations to you, Minister Ricardo Salles on Brazil's assumption of the Chair of the BRICS Ministers of Environment Forum and for hosting the 5th meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Environment in this beautiful city of São Paulo. I am also grateful and honoured for the warm hospitality accorded to us by the Federative Republic of Brazil.
As we are gathered here today, this meeting represents yet another significant chapter in environmental cooperation amongst the BRICS Member States following the successful 4th BRICS Environment Ministers meeting that South Africa hosted last year, in addition to signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Environmental Cooperation during the 10th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg last year.
Maintaining economic growth, while creating sustainable livable cities for all, has been regarded as the biggest urban challenge facing many countries today. Many cities are still faced with environmental degradation and pollution, traffic congestion, inadequate urban infrastructure, and challenges in the provision of basic services to all, such as water supply, sanitation, and waste management.
One of the main issues for today's cities is how to effectively factor-in the benefits provided by ecosystem services, how to counteract the depletion of natural resources and biodiversity loss, and how to deal with various forms of pollution and waste. Also, cities have responsibilities to mitigate to and adapt to climate change, whilst prioritising public health and improving quality of life for citizens.
We are well aware that the poor are the ones who are most affected by the environment issues such as poor air quality, inadequate waste management and pollution.
It is recognized that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Africa's Agenda 2063 will not be achieved if we do not protect, manage and utilize natural resources sustainably. The agenda emphasizes our responsibility to protect our rich natural resources for present and future generations, as these will provide an opportunity for prosperity and economic and social progress through the responsible stewardship of our environment.
With respect to the proposed theme of "Contribution of urban environmental management to improving the quality of life in the cities"
, South Africa is of the view that Sustainable Development Goal number 11 relates to the theme in order to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. This goal is linked to and responds to a number of other SDGs including the ending poverty and hunger, healthy lives and promotion of well-being, taking action to address climate change, promoting sustainable consumption and production and others.
Urbanisation is increasingly acknowledged as a mega global trend requiring the current urgent and cohesive international response. In line with SDG 11 and the New Urban Agenda, South Africa's national urban policy, the Integrated Urban Development Framework, guides transformation of urban space in such a manner so as to promote inclusive social and economic development, whilst promoting urban resilience and protection of the urban environment.
We believe that in order to create productive, inclusive, and livable cities, planning and land-use management practices must actively integrate infrastructure investment, public transport and human settlements. South Africa has prioritized informal settlement upgrading because we feel strongly that it supports community development, better urban management, and improvement in people's lives.
South Africa's Constitution recognises that everyone has a right to an environment that is not harmful to human health and well-being, and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, This also resonates with South Africa's National Development Plan (NDP) vision for "transition to an environmentally sustainable, climate change resilient, low-carbon economy and just society" by 2030. Our NDP highlights the elements of decent living to include among others access to a clean environment, employment, healthcare, water, sanitation, electricity, and transport amongst others. These issues are regarded as critical components of sustainable cities and therefore are a focus of many development programmes in the country.
As developing countries with rapidly urbanizing populations, BRICS nations stand to learn a lot from each other in sharing innovative policies, best practices in improving and managing the urban environment.
South Africa is in full support of the BRICS Environmentally Sound Technology (BEST) Platform, Clean Rivers Umbrella Programme and the Partnership for Urban Environment Sustainability Initiative. We look forward to reflecting on progress and how best to take these important initiatives forward.
South Africa also welcomes the focus of BRICS on combating of marine litter and recognises that this is a key issue facing our world today. BRICS countries could learn and benefit from sharing our national experiences and programmes on dealing with this challenge.
South Africa is looking forward to discussing and agreeing on the implementation of the signed BRICS Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Environmental Cooperation, which lists sustainable development, climate change, biodiversity management, air quality management as well as waste management as agreed upon areas of cooperation amongst BRICS countries.
In conclusion, once again thank you honourable Minister Salles for the warm welcome and we are looking forward to fruitful deliberations here in Sao Paulo!
I thank you.